print logo

When Leaving Feels Better Than Staying

 Community Connection (USA) 28 May 2019

(Originally published: 09/2009) “I am coming to the end of a journey here in Los Angeles after four years of slaving away for the non-profit industrial complex on Skid Row. My experience has been bittersweet but I am grateful for the friends and allies I have made along the way.” Los Angeles case manager, Loose Womyn, explains the conflicting emotions she feels as she leaves her post for the last time. (498 words) - Staff writer

I am coming to the end of a journey here in Los Angeles after four years of slaving away for the non-profit industrial complex on Skid Row.  My experience has been bittersweet.  I am grateful for the friends and allies I have made along the way.

I am even more thankful for the growth I have experienced, personally and professionally, even though it makes me cringe to say the latter.  What I am not thankful for, much less proud of, is that the very growth I speak of often came at the expense of others.

Nothing, no former employer, not even a bachelor's degree in Sociology, prepared me for what I experienced and witnessed on Skid Row.  Working as a case manager in this community has exposed me to countless examples of blatant racism, sexism and classism that are permeated in the fibers of the non-profit corporations that supposedly serve the homeless and very poor.

One of the constant battles I wrestled with was the acknowledgment of my own power and privilege as a so-called social service provider.  I was often elevated to god-like status because I had a badge and was reminded on more than one occasion by those in power that I wasn't the one who was homeless and needing assistance.  "They're homeless, you're not. You're different."  Malcolm X said that you cannot drive a knife into a man's back nine inches, pull it out six inches and call it progress.  Well, the non-profit industrial complex existing on Skid Row not only drove a knife nine inches into the community's back, it never bothered to pull it out.  It only drove it further into the backs of the people it supposedly serves.

To the community of Central City East, thank you.  Thank you for allowing me to learn, fight and in some ways overcome.  Thank you to my clients for trusting me, even when all hope seemed lost.  Thank you for welcoming me and allowing me to stand alongside you in the struggle for justice.  I would not have had it any other way.  I will always take you with me, everywhere I go.  El pueblo unido jamás sera vencido.

Mike Alvidrez.  Andy Bales.  Herb Smith.  Willie Jordan.  Anita Nelson.  Larry Adamson. Gregory Scott.  And countless others who consider themselves "CEO's" of Central City.  "These people", as you affectionately call community members, are the reason you have a job to come to every day.  "These people" pay for your rent, your mortgage and your Lexus, Mercedes or BMW.  The day "these people", the cracked-out-mentally-ill-SSI-gobbling-leeches-of-society stand up and fight back, your empires will crumble and you'll be the ones standing in the county line.

To every doe-eyed white person I see on the streets of Skid Row ministering to the "urban poor": the homeless don't need your water bottles, peanut butter sandwiches or the cookie cutter version of Jesus you are selling.  They need HOUSING.  Get that?  Pray to your god about that, please.

It's been real.

Recently Added